I didn’t realize until recently that Pebble Beach – often panned as the setting of “unfair” conditions – is actually one of the fairest golf links in the United States.
There’s all kinds of ways to succeed in a round of golf at Pebble. You can hit high, fading iron shots like Jack Nicklaus did. You can utilize sheer power, as Tiger Woods did as a young man. Low balls work too, especially when it’s windy. You can play cautiously and build a score or go for broke and attack the pins, putting smoothly like Ben Crenshaw or wrist-popping your putts across the Poi Annua greens as Isao Aoki – known to vintage Nintendo fans as “Miracle Choseke” – used to do.
But there’s a catch. You’ve got to keep your wits. And if you haven’t played much on the Monterrey Peninsula, find a caddie who has.
Consider what once happened to Tom Watson on the Par 5 14th, a hole with a scary uphill drive followed by a seemingly benign lay-up and approach. When the hole is cut on the right side of the green it’s a birdie look, even an eagle opportunity for power hitters. When it is cut on a devilish slope just behind a left-front bunker it’s another story. Watson was leading a tournament at Pebble in 1993 when he and a 2nd-place Johnny Miller came to the 14th hole. Tom’s 3rd shot went in the bunker, and he made bogey. Miller made birdie and wound up winning the event.
“That’s a trick pin,” Miller said later. “You have to take an extra club.” He was right, but shouldn’t have been speaking in the singular. Such tips and tricks apply to almost every shot on the course.
Few of the old fogeys mentioned above are in the field for the 2019 U.S. Open, which tees off at Pebble Beach on Thursday, June 13th. But 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods certainly is in the field. What do the markets at golf betting sites say about his chances to repeat Monterrey glory of 2000?
Comparing U.S. Open Futures Odds at Betting Sites
Typically our blog features a single sportsbook’s lines for a major golf championship, with capsule updates on every favorite and a few underdogs. No gambler would want to go without previewing the chances of elite PGA Tour pros, but why the single set of odds?
Looking at betting odds before you have a clear understanding of each player’s real chances (or how the lines are shaping up at multiple sportsbooks) can be dangerous. Suppose you give Dustin Johnson a 1-in-6 chance of winning the U.S. Open in 2019. You see that Johnson is a (+1100) pick at a gambling site, and immediately jump on the line since the chances of winning far outweigh the low price.
Except what if he’s a 9-to-1 pick elsewhere? Or what if there’s a new narrative about Johnson that the clientele at either sportsbook has picked up on that you haven’t yet?
Looking for the best line on Tiger Woods to win his 2nd major of the season? You won’t find it at Bovada Sportsbook, where heavy betting action tends to put celebrity golfers at shorter odds than they should be, unless Tiger’s on a losing streak and pessimistic fans overreact as happened in 2018. The best line for Tiger’s bid at Pebble Beach isn’t at BetOnline, where his (+1000) odds-to-win match those at Bovada, but it’s at MyBookie – where a more select group of golf gamblers seem to recall Tiger’s flop in the PGA Championship just a few weeks ago. Tiger’s line for Pebble is (+1200) at the Costa Rican book.
I’m inclined to recommend that line, not because I have any special knowledge of Tiger’s preparation or form headed into the crucial week in California. It’s because any such reaction to the missed-cut outcome at the PGA Championship is still paying attention to only the numbers on scorecards and not the insignias or the holes printed on them.
Bethpage Black didn’t suit Tiger 2.0. Pebble Beach might be a better fit.
Here’s a look at 4 of the favorites the upcoming U.S. Open – and tips on where to find the best lines on golfers likely to contend.
Obviously any discussion of golf’s major championships has to begin and end with Brooks Koepka. The quiet, sturdy machine threatened to destroy the field at the PGA Championship in New York until Johnson, Koepka’s workout buddy, made a charge on Sunday to finish a close 2nd.
The #1 quality of any great major championship golfer is patience, and Koepka excels at keeping his head and staying confident in any conditions. He’s equally comfortable gunning for birdies with long, accurate, biting draws to targets down the middle and to the left. Koepka can hit a low fade if needed to get around the mighty trees on the 1st, 14th, and other Par 4s and 5s. He can feather a wedge to the tiny Par-3 7th or punch a 6-iron through a Pacific Ocean gale to the same flag.
But can any golfer just keep winning majors in this era? Whoever has won the most-recent of the 4 events is always going to get a little bit shorter odds than they ought to headed into the next big tournament. If it wasn’t for 4 days in New York in May, Tiger – the reigning Masters winner – would likely be the most-popular gamble to win at Pebble. Yet since the memory is fresh of Brooks nearly lapping a strong field at Bethpage Black, bettors are flocking to the hot commodity.
When Tiger Woods won the “Tiger Slam,” he was in his prime like Brooks Koepka. But the fields are stronger now, and packed with other perennial contenders in their primes. None of that is a reason to lose faith in an obviously terrific athlete. It just might be someone else’s turn to shine for a moment.
Koepka’s line-to-win the U.S. Open is (+550) at Bovada Sportsbook and (+600) at MyBookie and BetOnline.
Johnson’s lines-to-win the U.S. Open seem even more blindly-reactive to the finish of the PGA Championship.
Yes, the setup of Bethpage Black worked out almost perfectly for The Cheetah. We spent some time previewing the torturous 15th hole of the Tillinghast course this spring, for instance, and touched on the difficulty of the layout again in a feature on Brooks Koepka’s 2019 season, and the hole claimed almost as many bogey victims as I expected.
Not for D.J., who took less strokes on the 15th than some players took on the hellish Par-3 17th hole over 4 rounds. If you hit perfect drives and perfect approach shots at Bethpage Black, putting can be kind of easy. That worked out great for Johnson – who has gotten the “yips” in big moments at majors.
To be fair once again, Johnson wasn’t really “yipping” on that 3-putt to lose the U.S. Open. His hands weren’t shaky, but he did “decelerate” the putter on the 2nd attempt. The eagle opportunity caused D.J. to make the classic mistake of trying to nail it for the 3 and the win, instead of realizing that 3-putts can occur even from 15 or 20 feet.
It was Johnson’s mental game that cost him the U.S. Open and more recently the PGA Championship, as the big hitter roared down the back 9 on Sunday before failing to club-down to compensate for the adrenalin, and air-mailing for bogey as Brooks coasted to the finish line.
Johnson’s best odds-to-win can be found at Bovada or MyBookie where he’s an 8-to-1 wager. I’m not liking the pick at those lines.
It ought to be simple to handicap Tiger Woods in this tournament. Obviously, the old pro has recalibrated his game to where accuracy and putting skills are more important elements than raw power. Tiger won’t be able to hit 185-yard uphill 7 irons out of the rough to the green, as he did in 2000 when winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes.
In the same scenario in 2019, Tiger would meekly pitch to the left-hand fairway and then likely balloon a wedge over the pin, tapping the downhill putt with a worried frown on his face.
With another dominating win at Pebble unlikely, it would seem like the time to wait even longer to gamble on Woods. Yes, his terrible performance at Bethpage Black chopped his betting action for the next major nearly in-half. Perhaps another finish outside of the top-10 would make his payoff lines even fatter going into a likely charge in the latter half of 2019 as the PGA Tour proceeds to various tricky and target-smart venues for Tiger to out-fox the field on.
But I wouldn’t overlook any markets on Tiger at the upcoming United States Open, not prop betting opportunities on Top-5 or Top-10 outcomes, not head-to-head 72-hole bets or 3-balls bets, and not even his futures lines-to-win.
Something special happens to veteran champions at courses they’ve dominated on in the past. Instinct and natural confidence take over as the player remembers every made putt and crafty approach.
Under normal circumstances, Tiger could struggle – as Jack Nicklaus did in his late 40s and 50s – at layouts where his drives don’t end up as far down the fairway as they used to, forcing the golfer to play new and difficult shots to the flag. Except at Pebble Beach, where the wind can always whip into an overbearing force, Woods already knows what it’s like to be 200 yards out on a drive-and-pitch Par 4. He’s gone through it 200 times while playing the hole upwind, or cautiously in a cross-wind.
The most important facet to winning at Pebble Beach is knowing your way around Pebble Beach. Tiger’s line is especially long at MyBookie (+1200) and I’m liking those odds for at least a 1-unit hunch play.
I’m also fond of Rory McIlroy’s chances, even though Rory missed the cut at the recent Memorial, failed to challenge Koepka at the PGA Championship, and will be overlooked by many handicappers and pundits headed into the U.S. Open.
The Memorial and a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach have as much in common stylistically as the French Open and Wimbledon. Different venues, different skills required. The only PGA Tour course Rory has seen in ’19 that is significantly influenced by Monterrey Peninsula-style course architecture is Arnie’s course at Bay Hill, and Rory finished 6th there this season.
But the best reason to like McIlroy is his driving, which can be adventurous but also lethal to the field. Experienced on the links courses of the United Kingdom, Rory has developed an “independent” eye for pockets, chutes and chicanes between hazards outside of a normal driving zone, and letting shots fly off the tee that end up in better birdie-looks than enjoyed by the rest of the field.
For example, his win at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island has been described as one of the finest driving exhibitions in major championship history.
Rory can play holes such as the Par-4 1st at Pebble Beach as birdie holes, driving with precise trajectory over the trees and controlling backspin to land in the severe dogleg. I’ve seen PGA Tour golfers try to play it safe on the 1st hole and wind up hitting a utility wood or a trick shot through the wind on their approach, trying desperately to stick the ball under the hole on a severely-sloped green. Tapping for birdie while everyone else sweats it out? That’s a good way to get a head start all 4 rounds.
McIlroy is quite comfortable in the wind and won’t get dismayed if a few putts take wrong turns early in the tournament. Poi Annua can curse you, but it can unexpectedly bless you too, and putts will fall over time if Rory’s driver and wedge game are clicking.
He’s off to a good start in the Canadian Open and could conceivably win, shortening the gambling lines considerably. (If he loses, they’ll get longer, which also isn’t bad news.)
Rory’s best odds are (+1400) at BetOnline, and I suggest taking the bet with 2 units before it begins to shrink of the Irishman excels over 72 warm-up holes north of the border.